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January 08, 2019

Aesthetic Technology 101

Aesthetic Technology 101

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

With cutting-edge technology comes cosmetic treatments that are able to combine innovative equipment with a hands-on approach

There’s no doubt about it—technology can be complicated. With a multitude of confusingly named variations, all offering slightly different signature procedures with similar technology, it can be difficult to narrow down the search for the perfect aesthetic treatment. The good news is, these devices aren’t nearly as scary as their names often suggest—here are the machines behind some of the most popular non-surgical techniques.


From hair removal and skin tightening to body contouring and tattoo removal, lasers are officially in—and for good reason. With hundreds of laser procedures on the market, it’s comforting to know that the different variations tend to fit into two basic sub-classifications: ablative and non-ablative. The main difference here is wavelength—different laser wavelengths target different issues. Consequently, combining laser variations with treatments has become a popular method for creating targeted procedures. 

How it works

Lasers work in cosmetic practices through a process called selective photothermolysis. Essentially, this means that the frequency of light is regulated to produce heat in a specific area. The light beam must be in sync with the colour of the target—which is why pigmentation, redness and dark hairs against lighter skin can be best targeted.

Ablative versus non-ablative lasers

The basic difference between ablative and non-ablative treatments is that ablative lasers remove the top layers of damaged skin, while non-ablative lasers penetrate deeper in the skin so that the body produces new collagen, without damaging the outer layers. Choose ablative laser resurfacing to treat mild to moderate wrinkles, facial scarring and skin discolouration, and non-ablative treatments to improve skin texture, tone and pigmentation.


Recent years have witnessed the rise of light therapy, specifically the preoccupation with intense pulsed light (IPL). Again, often used for long-term hair removal and skin rejuvenation, IPL is usually cheaper than laser treatment—the main difference between the two is the light source used. Instead of a single laser, IPL uses broad-spectrum visible light to target complaints such as brown spots, dark hair follicles and rosacea.

How it works

Similar to the principles of laser treatments, IPL uses technology to convert light into heat energy and target pigments found in the skin. Considered a non-ablative resurfacing technique, IPL systems deliver many wavelengths in each pulse of light and can filter the energy to treat certain areas, drastically improving the skin’s appearance and complexion. 

IPL versus LED

LED—also known as light emitting diode—light therapy is also a technique commonly used for skin rejuvenation treatments. An LED mask or lamp with varying light wavelengths is held to the affected area for a period of time, promoting collagen production and increasing the rate of skin renewal. Consequently, LED treatment can be effective in treating the cause of skin complaints, rather than just the symptoms—which is often the case with IPL. Blue LED light therapy destroys acne-causing bacteria and helps to normalise sebum production. Alternatively, red LED light therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for ageing skin, sunspots, fine lines, texture and psoriasis.


One of the most popular non-surgical skin resurfacing treatments, microdermabrasion uses fine crystals and a vacuum to remove dead skin cells and reduce the effect of fine lines and blemishes. The results are dependent on the percentage of vacuum suction and the grade of crystals chosen. This exfoliation technique can banish dullness, hyper-pigmentation, uneven skin texture and fine lines.

How it works

A microdermabrasion procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes and may be accompanied by medication in the form of a relaxant. A handheld device directs a fine stream of tiny crystals across the skin to loosen dead cells and exfoliate the skin. A vacuum then draws out debris and impurities and sucks the removed skin cells away. 


Radiofrequency facials have been credited by celebrities and praised as the equivalent of a facelift or a contour palette—definitely on trend. By stimulating collagen production for six-weeks following a treatment, radiofrequency gives the appearances of tighter, lifted skin. Over time, it can also soften fine lines and firm the facial contours.

How it works

Radiofrequency treatment involves the application of a cosmetic gel and the sweeping motion of a warm wand. The wand heats the lower levels of the skin to approximately 40C, tricking the brain into stimulating a healing response. This elicits the production of collagen, the tightening of elastin fibres and the promotion of fat cell reduction.


Body contouring is the new liposuction, and procedures involving lasers, radiofrequency and injection lipolysis are available as non-surgical fat reduction options. Another popular option is controlled cold lipolysis (cryolipolysis), a technology that uses localised cooling or ‘fat freezing’ to extract heat from fat cells and reduce stubborn pockets of fat. The results can sculpt localised areas of the body, reduce cellulite and tighten the skin. 

How it works

Cryolipolysis is a non-invasive treatment that uses vacuum technology to cool a fatty area to a freezing temperature. This causes cell death of subcutaneous fat tissue, without damaging the skin or underlying cells. After the procedure, the body naturally removes the fat cells, decreasing an area of fat by an average of 20 percent.


With the additional rise in popularity of cosmetic surgeries, technology has led to treatments being more advanced, controlled and effective. For example, endoscopic microsurgeries have allowed surgeons to perform procedures with minimal scarring, and computer-assisted imaging has produced major benefits to plastic surgery. Advancements in tissue engineering have also led to the development of silicone implants and reduced the chances of rejection. 

Ice-cold weight loss

Whole-body-cryotherapy (WBC) involves standing in a freezing tank (minus 90C) for 4 minutes. Besides muscle healing, inflammation and skin benefits, the extreme temperature essentially tricks the body into thinking it’s dying, causing it to burn energy and calories to survive.